Friday, August 3, 2012

McCaskill Presses for Further Drought Aid for Missouri

As Missouri faces worsening drought conditions, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is leading two separate efforts to continue aiding the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“With little relief in sight, Missouri’s agricultural community needs access to every possible resource during this difficult time,” said McCaskill, who was born in Rolla. “We’ve got to act immediately to renew essential disaster assistance programs. I’m also calling on the President to marshal the full resources of the federal government to address the worsening conditions across rural America.”

In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, McCaskill called for their support in swiftly reauthorizing several disaster assistance programs that expired at the end of 2011. These programs, essential for livestock producers in Missouri, are reauthorized in the Farm Bill passed by the Senate in July. Citing the U.S. House of Representatives’ failure to act in passing either the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill or their own version, McCaskill wrote, “opportunities to fund these programs this year are slipping away….without these key disaster relief programs, farmers and ranchers suffering from this drought… are left with few options.”

Additionally, McCaskill called on the President to convene an Interagency Drought Task Force to bring together all agencies of government that have responsibilities related to agriculture, public lands, energy, water, public health and emergency response to report as soon as possible on the severity of the drought, expected impacts on the economy, and availability of options under current law to address these conditions. McCaskill asked that the task force offer fiscally-responsible recommendations for Congressional action to further assist those impacted by the drought.

After abandoning efforts to pass the Farm Bill, leaders in the U.S. House proposed a rushed and severely flawed short-term extension of farm programs, only to quickly withdraw the bill in the face of overwhelming opposition, including opposition from nearly every major agriculture organization. Although leaders in the House have now moved to consider stand-alone legislation to reauthorize only disaster assistance programs, they have sought to pay for the legislation by cutting other farm programs that have broad support from agriculture groups, further jeopardizing disaster assistance for Missouri’s farmers and ranchers at a time of crisis.

McCaskill helped pass the Farm Bill approved by the Senate that reauthorizes these essential livestock disaster assistance programs, supports agriculture jobs, strengthens resources for family farms and ranches, and reduces the national deficit by more than $23 billion. The House has failed to act on the broadly bipartisan Senate passed measure, which both McCaskill and Senator Roy Blunt supported, for more than a month, worsening an already desperate situation for those suffering from the disaster drought conditions across Missouri.

McCaskill also launched an online resource center last week on her website to provide a place Missourians can go for information ranging from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency office locations across the state, to a drought monitoring map updated weekly. Additionally, the page offers a direct link for farmers and ranchers to apply for water supply assistance through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The drought online resource center is available on McCaskill’s website, HERE.

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